If you’ve suffered from a chronic back problem for a while or have regular joint pain, you probably have an opinion on what happens when the weather changes. As an Ealing Chiropractor at a busy chiropractic clinic, I often see patients that have seen their condition worsen because it’s turned a little damp or there’s a chill in the air.
But is there any real evidence that bad weather makes your joints ache or your lower back seize up?
Here we take a closer look.
What Does the Research Say?
Actually, there aren’t that many studies which back up a strong relationship between weather conditions and joint or back pain. There are a few, however, that make for some interesting reading.
A piece of research carried out in Sweden looked at the way that cold weather can affect a condition like sciatica. This was quite a large study and involved 135,000 construction workers and it found that those working in fairly low temperatures were likely to report higher incidences of neck and lower back pain compared to those working in warm climates. This has also been backed up by a similar study in Finland.
Another study across 6 different EU countries looked at people with osteoarthritis. The research divided them into groups that either thought they were weather sensitive or didn’t think they were at all. What the study found was that people in warmer climates were tended to be more weather-sensitive than, say, someone living in Norway where it is generally colder. Nearly 60% of participants said that the weather could affect their osteoarthritis.
Weather changes may also have another impact which isn’t just about a change in barometric pressure or a cooling or dampening of the air. We are often less active in colder weather and that can cause problems if you have a chronic condition such as joint pain or lower back issues. We can also be a little less emotionally robust when the wind’s blowing, it’s pouring down with rain or there’s frost on the ground.
Some conditions can be affected directly during cold weather. A drop in temperature may impact on the viscosity of the fluid between the joints, for instance, making this area less lubricated. Different parts like ligaments, muscle and connective tissue may change properties slightly that give rise to pain or discomfort.
Some people find their conditions getting worse not when it gets cold but when it rains. The old wives’ tale of being able to tell if a storm is coming because your joints are aching is enduring but one that doesn’t have significant clinical evidence to back it up.
How to Protect Yourself During Cold Weather
If you have a bigger challenge with your lower back pain during cold weather, it can be down to several different factors. It’s important to wrap up warm if you are having an episode of back pain and ensure you are protected from the cold.
I quite often hear of back pain that is caused by sitting on a cold hard surface, for instance. What could be happening here is the cold causes the muscles around the affected area to seize up causing a painful spasm. Most people who endure chronic back pain or joint problems will come up with coping strategies when it comes to cold or damp weather.
- Keep yourself warm at all times.
- Make sure you do gentle exercises and stretches to improve your back and joints.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid too much caffeine or alcohol.
If you are currently suffering from back or joint problems and want to do something about it, contact your local Ealing chiropractor at The Spine & Joint Centre today to book an appointment.